In the US if you can’t make the charges to stick, or they really want someone in prison, there is always the trusty old backup – tax evasion.

A 92-year-old American woman who sold suicide kits over the internet is due to be sentenced for failing to submit her tax returns.

Sharlotte Hydorn has said she began making and selling the $40 (£24.75) helium packs to people across the United States and abroad because she wanted to help people who were in pain.

The retired school teacher thought she could design a product that could assist suicide after watching her husband die of colon cancer.

He had suffered “agonising pain” and she regretted not being able to let him die at their home, instead of being “filled with tubes in a hospital”.

But Hydorn came under scrutiny by law enforcement officials when her kits were linked with the deaths of people who were not terminally ill.

Prosecutors said she took no steps to screen her customers and therefore had no idea whether her kits were being bought by people suffering from depression.

The elderly woman has claimed she was not responsible for who used the kit, but she thought they would be used by the terminally ill.

Her home in El Cajon, east of San Diego, was raided last year and federal authorities found cheques that were not cashed and thousands of dollars in cash from buyers.

“To Ms Hydorn, her involvement in the suicide kits was an act of compassion and not based on greed,” her lawyer Charles Goldberg has said.

In December she pleaded guilty to failing to lodge tax returns for her company that sold the kits, but under an agreement with prosecutors she was not charged with involvement in six suicides.

She has been allowed to remain free on $10,000 (£6,188) bail on the condition she does not assist any suicides.

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